Youth orchestra gets a Frank Gehry-designed center in Inglewood

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Famed architect Frank Gehry has designed a new home for the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s youth orchestra.

Emma, a 7-year-old resident of Inglewood, tells DnA she hopes to one day perform “either guitar or harmonica” as a member of YOLA. Photo by Frances Anderton.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Youth Orchestra Los Angeles, known as YOLA, is getting a new performance space.

It’s in Inglewood, and famed architect Frank Gehry has designed it.

Gehry, a passionate music lover, has had a long relationship with the Phil. He made changes to the Hollywood Bowl in the early 1980s and he created its landmark Walt Disney Concert Hall, with its waving bands of metal.

The 25,000-square-foot home for Youth Orchestra Los Angeles will be a decidedly less bold form.

The concert configuration of the Judith and Thomas L. Beckmen YOLA Center @ Inglewood. Photo courtesy of Gehry Partners, LLP

It will occupy the former branch office of Security Pacific Bank, on South La Brea Avenue. At a public unveiling of the design on Wednesday, Gehry said the 1965 building needed to be modified to get a 45 foot ceiling, which provides the ideal acoustics for an orchestra.

“We had to drop the floor and raise the ceiling which was it turned out a reasonable cost to do it and it makes all the difference.” In raising the ceiling, he also added clerestories, which will flood the space with natural light. He proposes a clear glass screen behind the building’s existing colonnade, and a visible raised walkway, inviting passersby into the experience.

“The scheme appears to have the sense and sensibility of an earlier, and very successful, intervention by Gehry in an existing building; namely, the Temporary, now Geffen, Contemporary for MOCA in Little Tokyo,” said DnA’s Frances Anderton.

Aerial model view of the Judith and Thomas L. Beckmen YOLA Center @ Inglewood, concert configuration. Photo courtesy of Gehry Partners, LLP

Gehry has been a longtime friend of Gustavo Dudamel, the LA Phil’s artistic and music director. Dudamel established YOLA in 2007 to provide music lessons for children from low-income neighborhoods of LA. He was inspired by his own upbringing as a participant in Venezuela’s El Sistema music education program.

“Reading, writing and arithmetic are crucial, but they must be complemented by art education, which of course nourish the mind, but also touches the soul,” Dudamel said.

Dudamel also praised Gehry’s design for the center.

“It will function as a building but it will also act as a catalyst in transforming our children, and I cannot wait to see that happen,” he said.

Exterior model view of the Judith and Thomas L. Beckmen YOLA Center @ Inglewood. Photo courtesy of Gehry Partners, LLP

Inglewood has become a hotbed of development, with a new train line and two sports stadiums on the horizon. Residents have expressed concerns that rising home values will lead to displacement. But Gehry said that’s not what YOLA is about.

“One of the important things is that YOLA will recruit kids from Inglewood. So it’s not about gentrification. It’s about creating a culture within the community, and that’s special,” he said.

YOLA serves about 1,200 young musicians, and Dudamel has said he’d like to double that number.

Groundbreaking on the new center is set to begin this spring.

Gustavo Dudamel embraces Frank Gehry in front of a model of the new center, at a public unveiling on Wednesday. Photo by Avishay Artsy.

Listen up to next week’s DnA for more on this project, featuring comments from Frank Gehry, Inglewood Mayor James Butts and Gustavo Dudamel.